Hi there! I'm Genelle, and I run this shop with my mom, Jeanne. She lives in Colorado and I live in Arizona. We've been in business since November of 2013. This journey has been messy, beautiful, and complex. I'm still learning and growing every day. Your support in any form is appreciated more than you know!
Fashion and health have always been my two greatest passions. I spent time in fashion design school before I pursued my degrees in the health field. Starting a clothing company was something I had dreamed of, and that's how Akasha Sun was born.
Akasha Sun began in 2013 in my mudroom (yes, the little room everyone discards their shoes in). The first thing I made was the pair of yoga pants you see to the right. I listed them on Etsy, and they sold almost immediately! I was both surprised and excited that I could make a little extra money on the side to pay for school.
As my little business grew, I moved my dyeing operations to my bathroom floor, so I could be closer to my tub and sink. In addition to my Etsy sales, I had also landed a drop-shipping contract with a yoga clothing retailer. The increase in business was bittersweet, since I barely had time to work my full-time job, take holistic medicine classes, and make yoga pants. I remember numerous late nights on my bathroom floor crying while dyeing clothing.
Initially, my business model involved creating a select few styles and taking custom orders off of those styles. This model wasn't sustainable because our designs were too complex to replicate, and a lot of clothing and dye was wasted.
From the very beginning, I used USA made cotton clothing and non-toxic dyes. I didn't know a lot about eco-friendly business practices, since it wasn't really a thing in the fashion industry yet. When it came to running a business, I had no clue what I was doing. I still remember sitting in the lawyer's office where I established my LLC. I didn't understand half of what they were talking about. I had to teach myself everything from doing my own small business taxes to dealing with customer issues.
Taking a wrong turn
I never really planned ahead while running Akasha Sun. As we got busier, things started to slip. The first straw was when the drop-shipping contract fell through when they stopped paying me for the orders I was fulfilling. That relationship turned toxic, and I had to break it off. I couldn't keep up with the demand while working my job and taking classes. It was right around that time my mom got interested in learning how to make the clothing. This allowed me the time to work on the business side while she helped with production and design.
Marketing was one aspect that didn't come natural for me. Social media and SEO was evolving, and I didn't know how to grow. I decided to hire a marketer that was highly recommended by a friend. They came at a pretty hefty price, so I dipped pretty deep into our savings to invest in their help. The initial process with them felt encouraging. They went as far as claiming we could be the next Lulu Lemon or Alo. The business model they suggested included a complete re-brand, no more hand making/dyeing, and instead producing in large factories in China.
There was definitely a moment when my mom and I trusted them to carry us where we needed to go.
The marketing company suggested that our first step should be sponsoring a well-known yoga festival. I didn't really have the budget to do this after paying the marketing company, but was able to get enough together to be the top sponsor. It seemed worth it if it meant exponential growth, as they claimed.
As the festival grew near, our marketers began to lose interest in our brand and mission. They kept demanding more money with only a spiral bound notebook to show for it. We started to get suspicious of their intentions and capabilities, and soon realized we had basically spent our entire savings with nothing to show for it.
We had already paid for the festival, so we had no choice but to continue on in preparation. We worked day and night to make clothing for the festival, and I hired my co-worker (now husband) to help me re-brand, create marketing materials, and create a website.
The amount of time and energy we collectively put into the preparation for the festival was crazy. It was all happening at the same time as my mom was in the process of closing our family art gallery after 50 years in business. I hoped this festival would redeem us after everything we had lost. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case.
Everything that could have gone wrong on that trip did. Despite being the top sponsor for the event, we were treated like strangers and there was little to no promotion of our brand by the festival. I think we sold a dozen items total from our tent, and only one (amazing) instructor wore our clothing during her classes, despite being promised that every instructor would wear at least one item of our clothing.
I was bitter about that period for a long time. At that point I was ready to pack it all up and end it.
Finding Our Identity
I moved from Colorado to California in 2016 for a year. During that time I fell into a bit of a depression. The clothes from the festival sat in bins, unopened for months. Nothing new was created during that time. It wasn't until finances became super strained that I decided to reopen my Etsy store. I figured I could sell off my inventory and then close it.
In late 2017 my husband and I moved to Arizona, so it would be easier for him to find a job and a cheaper place to rent. I decided to try something different with Akasha Sun. I wanted to do more of what I was seeing in stores - muted colors and designs. My mom in Colorado created a select few variations, and I created a pre-sale event. Despite marketing the new designs and contacting countless boutiques that seemed interested, the whole thing was a flop.
We had lost our magic. I had taken away the energy and creative freedom of our designs. I was trying to fit us into a box that we were never supposed to fit in. We decided to go back to our core of being creative and loving what we do. We never needed to try and be like any other company or use questionable marketing strategies.
I am also proud that we produce our clothing ethically, supporting fair pay and good working environments. Our packing and marketing materials are also eco-friendly! Even though all of these efforts mean a smaller profit margin for us, it's worth it!
We aren't throwing clothes into giant bins of dye or trying to replicate past designs. We lovingly handle every piece, just like a work of art. Our passion runs so deep, and our excitement to create is never ending.
Your support is everything, and we love that we get to grow alongside you. Thanks for taking this journey with us.
- Genelle + Jeanne
Akasha Sun donates every month to Child Fund International.